Baird not prepared to extend Afghan mission 'at this time'

NATO has asked for Canadian troops to stay in Afghanistan past the end of their training mission in 2014, but Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird tells CBC he isn't "prepared to commit to any more than that."

Anti-war protesters rally in Toronto ahead of NATO summit in Chicago

Hundreds of protesters partake in an anti-NATO march Saturday in Chicago, where the 28-member military alliance begins two days of meetings on Sunday. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters )

While the head of NATO wants Canadian soldiers to stay in Afghanistan past the end of their training mission in 2014, Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister says he isn't ready to commit to that just yet.

In a public statement last Monday, NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said, "I appreciate very much that Canada provides trainers for our training mission in Afghanistan, and I hope Canada will be in a position to continue that contribution also after 2014."

NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen, left, wants Canada to prolong its military mission in Afghanistan past 2014. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says the government is 'not prepared to commit' for the time being. (Reuters/Canadian Press)

However, in an interview with host Evan Solomon airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said he and Rasmussen "haven't talked about it yet."

"We've been there for more than 10 years. The Canadian Forces have done a fantastic job in their training mission. They've paid a heavy price in their combat mission," Baird said.

"I'm not prepared to commit to any more than that at this time."

While Canada isn't currently considering an extension of the mission, Baird told Solomon there has been a request for financial assistance and development aid from Canada.

Baird confirmed "those are things Canada is considering."

Anti-war protesters rally in Toronto

Dozens of anti-war demonstrators picketed Saturday across the street from the U.S. consulate in Toronto to condemn NATO talks on the future of the Afghan mission ahead of the NATO summit in Chicago, which begins Sunday.

The NATO mission in Afghanistan is expected to be centre stage when leaders from 60 countries gather to discuss the war in Afghanistan and other international security issues.

The protesters said they're afraid that leaders at the summit will approve a plan that would keep foreign troops, including Canadian forces, in Afghanistan longer than originally scheduled.

"Rather than be a strong supporter of the occupation, I would like to see Canada strongly opposed to the U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership agreement," said Ali Ibrahimi of Afghans for Peace, one of the groups involved in the rally.

"I imagine a Canada that can be successful, be affluent and have influence in the world without the need to support injustice, to support people dying. So I would like our government to leas."

The demonstrators urged Ottawa to call back the soldiers now deployed on a training mission to the war-torn nation.

Several protests have already taken place in Chicago ahead of the summit, but the main one is set to coincide with the start of the meeting on Sunday.

So far, they have been largely peaceful. One man was arrested during a march on Friday, and three others were arrested in a raid on an apartment this week.

The three are accused of making Molotov cocktails in preparation for the summit and are being held on terrorism conspiracy charges.

With files from The Canadian Press